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February 7, 2014 Edition The figure of speech “Jack of all trades, master of none” suits me to a T. It refers to a person who shows competency in many skills, but is not particularly outstanding in any one. I recently learned some of the reasons why I am this way. Last week, in an astrology class, I learned that I possess something called Cardinal Quality. The site Astrology.com states: “Individuals possessing a Cardinal Quality like to get things going. They are active, quick and ambitious. Many projects get started, thanks to Cardinal initiative, although a good deal of them are never finished. That’s because Cardinal folks are much fonder of starting things than finishing them.” Adding to that, I also learned in class, that my zodiac sign’s temperament is that of air. Astrolibrary.org says this about those who have the of element of air, “They love learning, but bore easily . . . Air signs are into ideas and people. They are communicative; they must share information, interact with others, and influence society.”

Let me share an example of the Cardinal Quality-Air Element combination: In November, I decided to knit my son an afghan for Christmas. Having only knitted scarves in the past, I don’t know why I took on a project of that magnitude. After many “do-overs” and calls to my daughter-the-knitter, I completed the project, but ultimately decided that knitting was not for me. In January, I took a crochet class and decided to make a throw for my daughter. Again, with multiple “do-overs” and a bit of ad-libbing, I completed the project. Crocheting was easier, but again not for me. To make a long story short, I yearn to learn, but I lack the temperament and interest to stick to a single subject for very long. Hopefully, I’ll have better luck in the photography class I start next week!

#1 – Are You a Creative Person?
12 Tendencies of Creative People Have you ever considered yourself a creative person? Check out the 12 Most Striking Tendencies of Creative People and see how many of these traits you share with other creatives. For better descriptions of these tendencies, read the entire article, but in a nutshell they are:

1. Are bored easily
2. Are willing to take risks
3. Don’t like rules
4. Ask “what if . . .”
5. Make lots of mistakes
6. Collaborate
7. Are generous
8. Are independent
9. Experiment
10. Motivate themselves
11. Work hard
12. Aren’t alone

#2 – Valentine’s Day Printables and Love Quotes
The best Valentine’s Day cards or gifts do not have to come from a store. Homemade cards, treats, or gifts carry more love because of the sweat equity involved. Making homemade Valentine’s Day cards and treats are a cinch, especially if you use free printables. Whether it’s finding the right words for your Valentine’s Day card or making/assembling treats for school or for the office, you’ll find some creative assistance below:
Valentine's Chalkboard Printables Valentine’s Chalkboard Printables
75 Awesome! Valentine’s Day (Free Printables)
Free Valentine’s Day Bag Toppers
Treat Bag Toppers
Love Quotes for Valentine’s Day Cards
Valentine’s Day Quotes

#3 – An Extraordinary Gift
Extraordinary Graduation Gift
Because of its inspirational message, the book Oh, the Places You’ll Go! by Dr. Seuss makes a nice graduation gift. When one man’s daughter graduated from high school, he gave her the book and, as she opened the book to read it, he told her, “Every year, for the past 13 years, since the day you started kindergarten I’ve gotten every teacher, coach, and principal to write a little something about you inside this book.” Why am I sharing this story with you months before graduation season? This is a wonderful gift idea that obviously requires some advance planning. Even if you did not start this project at the beginning of your child’s academic career, you still have time to get your child’s teachers and coaches to write something in the book for this year!! Click here to read more about this story.

#4 – Smart As A Dog
Watch this video and fall in love with Misa, a tiny Yorkie. This little pup is not just a ball of adorable fluff. Judging by the number of tricks in her repertoire, she’s pretty darn smart, too!

#5 – Learn
“Try to learn something about everything and everything about something.”
Thomas Huxley

“I am always doing that which I cannot do, in order that I may learn how to do it.”
Pablo Picasso

Now Go and Spread Joy!

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Trays of Persimmons An outing to a local farm provided me with photographic inspiration. Trays of plump and shapely persimmons, waiting for distribution to food banks, caught my attention. Too bad I didn’t think to bring my camera! Knowing that I was seconds away from jumping in the car and driving back home, my husband suggested, “Why don’t you try using the camera on your cell phone?” While photographing the smooth-skinned beauties, I yelled over to him, “You’re SO smart. Guess I’ll have to keep you around for awhile!”

#1 – Feed Your Brain
165 Photography feeds my brain, but so does watching foreign films. Doing so, I’m forced to read subtitles quickly and I learn about different cultures. Lately, I’ve been watching movies from one particular country and, as a result of that, I’m learning a new language. When I read, 17 Simple Skills Which Can Be Astonishingly Good For You . . . , I discovered a few more ways to feed my brain. How many of these activities do you do?

#2 – The Ever Versatile Muffin Tin
31 Fun Treat You Can Make in a Muffin Tin Can brain food be made in muffin tins? Give that concept some thought and, in the meantime, check out 31 Fun Treats to Make in a Muffin Tin. Clever and tasty-looking!

#3 – Ways to Happiness
Little Ways to Find Happiness Surprisingly, to some, but maybe not to others, the first thing listed on Little Ways to Find Happiness is to “own at least two bubble machines.” Reading the other nine suggestions might make you feel pretty happy, too.

#4 – 500 Years
See female images throughout the ages morph together during 500 Years of Female Portraits. It’s amazing!

#5 – The Only Thing
“I do not care what car you drive. Where you live. If you know someone who knows someone who knows someone. If your clothes are this year’s cutting edge. If you are A-list or B-list or never heard of you list. If your trust fund is unlimited. I only care about the words that flutter from your mind. They are the only thing you own. The only thing I will remember you by. I will not fall in love with your bones or skin. I will not fall in love with the places you have been. I will not fall in love with anything but the words that flutter from your extraordinary mind.”
― Andre Jordan

Now go and spread joy!

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Gardenia The scent of gardenias wafts through an open window and lingers in the room. I inhale slowly and let the intoxicating fragrance permeate my soul. I feel drugged and I can no longer focus on the task at hand. As a Marcel Proust-moment transports me from the present back to my past, I begin to hear the clanging of trolley cars and the hissing of bus doors opening and closing. In my mind, I see my mother bending over a very young version of me and asking, “Would you like to pick out a flower?” People push past us on the crowded street as I examine the buckets of flowers at a corner flower stand. My small hands reach for a large creamy-white swirl of petals. The sweet fragrance is nothing like I’d ever smelled before and I repeatedly sniff the blossom. “That’s a gardenia,” my mother says. I nod and guard my treasure as we board a bus for the ride home. My reverie ends with the ringing of my cell phone and I return to the present. Gardenias will forever remind me of my mother and of that time in my life, but even more than that, they are reminders to me of how little seeds can be planted deep.

#1 – Remember Fathers
With Father’s Day coming up, here’s a video tribute that triggers memories of all that fathers do:

#2 – Eat Your Words
Harry Potter Cake Books and birthday cakes can each be a source of fond memories. What if the two entities joined forces and became “book-cakes” or “cake-books”? If you love books and you love eating cakes, you’ll enjoy scrolling through the photos of 24 Incredible Cakes Inspired By Books.

#3 – Best-Value Destinations
One of my favorite travel memories happened while I was in Italy with my husband, my kids, and three of their friends. We had just finished touring the Galleria Borghese and were slowly walking back to our hotel. Somehow our conversation turned to skipping and how some people in the family couldn’t skip. Before I knew it my adult children and their friends were having a skipping relay race on the dirt paths outside the villa. I still laugh when I watch the video of the race! Create your own travel memories, but before you decide where to go, check out Lonely Planet’s Best-Value Destinations in Europe for 2013.

#4 – Make Gift Bows From Magazine Pages
Make gift bows using magazine pages to decorate Father’s Day and graduation gifts. How cute, colorful, and clever! Click here for the complete instructions. Make Bows From Magazines

#5 – Words of Wisdom
I hope that my achievements in life shall be these:
that I will have fought for what was right and fair,
that I will have risked for that which mattered,
that I will have given help to those who were in need,
and that I will have left the earth a better place
for what I’ve done and who I’ve been.
C. Hoppe

HAPPY FATHER’S DAY to all fathers and CONGRATULATIONS to all graduates!

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Photo Mosaic Quilt Card Words communicate thoughts and feelings, but when trying to comfort someone who has lost a loved one, words prove to be inadequate. A few months ago, my family lost a dear friend, one that my mother had known since she was five-years-old. While struggling with composing a note of condolence to my “Aunt’s” children, I reflected on my fond memories of her. Besides her family, quilting was her joy. Lovingly and painstakingly, she crafted quilts to give away to family and friends. Although, she is no longer in our presence, she lives on because the gifts of her joy have become our joy. As a tribute to her, I created a photo-mosaic quilt card and wrote these “inadequate” words . . .

She is part of earth’s patchwork now.
Feel her spirit when you see nature’s patterns and textures around you:
The concentric layers of delicate petals of rosebuds,
The precise symmetry of leaves,
The geometric shapes of snowflakes,
The cotton-like-fluff of clouds above . . .
She’s there.

#1 – An Inspirational Life
Age is not a requirement, nor a factor, to be an inspiration to others. During the last several months, such a story has been shared on Facebook and on You Tube. For those who are not familiar with Zach Sobiech’s story, I share it with you. At the age of 14, Zach was diagnosed with a terminal case of osteosarcoma, a cancer of the bone. He dealt with dying with a wisdom and a peace beyond his years. Although he lost his battle against cancer this past Monday, May the 20th, in no terms was Zach a loser. View this documentary, with tissues in hand, and marvel at the beautiful spirit of this young man. These words, that Reverend Mike Miller said at Zach’s memorial service, “Zach was someone who wanted everyone to know, ‘You don’t have to find out you’re dying to start living,'” should be remembered by everyone.
Zach left many gifts behind for the world and one of them is his song Clouds. I downloaded it, so that I can be reminded of living my best life every day. Here’s a surprise celebrity music video presented to Zach of his song:

#2 – Picture This

If different planets replaced the moon

If Neptune replaced the moon in the night sky

Things happen when the stars and the moon align correctly, but what happens when they don’t? Imagine what the night sky would look like, if planet Neptune took the place of the moon. The images from How The Sky Would Look If The Planets Were As Close As The Moon answers those questions. Because I found some of the pictures a bit unnerving, I like our moon more and exactly where it is located!

#3 – The Best Time
According to this infograph, based on the body’s circadian rhythm, there are better times to play a tennis match against a formidable opponent, to study for a big exam, and to paint, write, or solve problems. To have a more productive day, check out this information:

A Productive Day

#4 – More Amazing Ideas
Storage Solutions For those idea junkies out there, here are 16 Amazing Do It Yourself Home Ideas. On my why-didn’t-I-think-of-that scale of 1 to 10, some of these scored a 10.

#5 – How to Live
“The days of our lives, for all of us, are numbered. We know that. And yes, there are certainly times when we aren’t able to muster as much strength and patience as we would like. It’s called being human. But I have found that in the simple act of living with hope, and in the daily effort to have a positive impact in the world, the days I do have are made all the more meaningful and precious. And for that I am grateful.”
― Elizabeth Edwards

During this Memorial Day weekend, please take the time to honor and to thank those who have died in our nation’s service.

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Superman Romeo With his blue cape flipped up, Romeo is just a dog wearing a “cone of shame.” But, with the help of his creative mom, when he wears his blue cape flipped down, he becomes Super Dog — because that’s exactly what he is to his family. To his dismay, he must wear his cape everyday, ever since a chondrosarcoma tumor in his nose became his kryptonite. By taking him for daily radiation treatments, Romeo’s family hopes to help him regain his powers. Like Superman, Romeo must go through darkness before he can see light again. He endures the drives to the veterinary hospital, the shaving of his muzzle, the change in his feeding schedule, the side-effects of the radiation, and the wooziness from general anesthesia and drugs, but, like any superhero, he could use some plain old luck.

#1 – Use your Brain and Feed a Hungry Person
With a little luck and some smarts, you can play a game that helps feed people around the world. More specifically, answer questions in Humanities, Math, Foreign Languages, Human Anatomy, English, Chemistry, Geography, and SAT Test Preparation and for every correct answer you get, Freerice donates 10 grains of rice to the United Nations World Food Program. Check out the website to test how smart you are and to learn how your answers could help feed starving people.

#2 – Creative Typography
Here’s a different take on creative writing — how about creatively writing words? Ji Lee, designer and former creative director of Google and currently the creative energy at Facebook, challenges us to “Create an image out of a word, using only the letters in the word itself without adding any extra elements.” Watch this video to see some of his extremely creative examples:

#3 – Ingenious Stuff to Make
A basketball purse, a cutlery clock, and a broom-head pencil holder are some of the ingenious DIY projects that can be found on 7 Ingenious DIY Designs You Can Make At Home.

#4 – Be Lighter
With summer just a couple of months away, it’s time to get in shape for bathing suit and short season. That also means it’s time to think about those little things called calories. Here’s an infographic with everything you need to know about calories:

#5 – Light From Within
“People are like stained-glass windows. They sparkle and shine when the sun is out, but when the darkness sets in, their true beauty is revealed only if there is a light from within.” Elisabeth Kubler-Ross

This weekend, light up from within by helping someone in need!

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Come Alive
Don’t wait.
Don’t wait for the right time.
Don’t wait for the right time to figure things out.
Don’t wait for the right time to figure out who you are and why you’re here.
Don’t wait for the right time to figure out what special gifts you bring to the universe.
Don’t wait for answers to come to you – you must seek and find them.
Don’t wait, start now – for every day holds promises of discovery.
Don’t wait, it’s within your grasp.
Don’t wait, come alive.

Linnell Chang

#1 – What Type of Person Are You?
For more insight into your personality, take the Jung Typology Test, better known as the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, offered by HumanMetrics. Answer the 72 questions without overthinking. Go with your first reaction. Hit the “Score It!” button and you will receive your score and a description of your “type.”

#2 – Ocean Pollution Solution?
Ocean Cleanup Array The world needs more creative thinkers to help solve world problems. A 19-year-old Dutch student named Boyan Slat is a prime example of a creative problem-solver. He designed a device called Ocean Cleanup Array to help solve plastic waste issues in the ocean. Watch this young man’s compelling and informative TED presentation and learn more about the enormity of ocean pollution and his project. In his own words, “. . . But we created this mess. Heck we even invented this new material first before we made this mess, so please don’t tell me we can’t clean this up together.”

#3 – Surreal Art
Surrealism mixes fact and fantasy together. Here’s an interesting collection of “12 Stunningly Surreal Sculptures” presented by My Modern Met.

#4 – Great Ideas
a-put-a-large-marshmellow-on-top-of-a-cupcake-before-its-done-and-it-will-melt-for-frostingGenerally, great ideas posted on this blog have to simplify life, repurpose something, bring joy to life, or make you wonder, “Why didn’t I think of that?” Some of the ideas highlighted in “Simple Ideas That Are Borderline Genius” do all of the above.

#5 – What Matters Most
Each morning we are born again. What we do today is what matters most.
Buddha

Enjoy your weekend!

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weeping cherry

Photo by Linnell Chang

Tucked away and wrapped around the scars of sawed off limbs, lays an oasis of flush, verdant growth. Young leaves glow brightly as the sun weaves its way through heavy branches and highlights this little piece of heaven. Despite its injury and its scars, this tree found the strength and the resiliency to prove that it’s still alive and beautiful. Alexander Pope said it best, “Hope springs eternal.”

#1 – From the Brink of Extinction
Imagine your excitement if you were an exploratory botanist and you noticed a tiny plant that had been thought to be extinct for the last 60 years growing on the steep slope of a volcano. Read the article about this amazing discovery on Mother Nature Network.

#2 – A Poet Who Knows It  
Whether you have a daughter or not, you will appreciate poet Sarah Kay’s heartfelt, sometimes rambling, but always thought-provoking TED presentation titled “If I Should Have a Daughter . . . “

Here are some examples of her thoughtful prose:

“Getting the wind knocked out of you is the only way to remind your lungs how much they like the taste of air.”

“Put the star in starting over . . . and over.”

“There’s nothing more beautiful than the way the ocean refuses to stop kissing the shoreline no matter how many times it’s sent away.”

#3 – Art and Nature

Artwork by Moki

Painting by Moki

German-based artist Moki combines humans with nature in some of her artwork. Learn about this talented artist and see more of her incredible art by clicking here.

#4 – With a String of Lights . . .
With a string of lights you can do a ton of fun and interesting things – well, at least the 46 Awesome String-Lights DIYs For Any Occasion that are shown on BuzzFeed. I really think the doily wedding garland is cute, but there are just too many clever ideas for me to choose a favorite!

#5 – The Negative Is the Positive
“Life is like photography. You need the negatives to develop.”
– Unknown

Have a wonderful weekend!

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photo of cockapoo

Romeo by Linnell Chang

“Romeo may be old, but he still has a big dog mentality,” I mused as I watched my 14-year-old cockapoo struggle up the stairs with a large rawhide chew in his mouth. At the top of the stairs, a pile of small chews reflects his dissatisfaction with treats meant for his size. Yesterday, on a whim, I gave Romeo a large chew left behind by my son’s black lab puppy. From the look in Romeo’s eyes, I could tell he was thinking, “Now this is more like it, Mom!” As he drags the large chew from room to room, he’s living proof that size is all in our heads.

#1 – Rules for Being Human
photo of person lean against tree Many misconceptions or beliefs fill our heads and convince us of what we are or what we are not. We are often guilty of perpetuating inaccurate self-perceptions; it’s incumbent on us to combat this form of negative mind control. Since my teen years, I’ve kept a collection of philosophical thoughts, motivational writings, and inspirational quotes to help me channel my thoughts and to empower me. Some passages from Marc and Angel Hack Life have earned their way into my collection. Here’s an example of some of their introspective reflections, “12 Rules for Being a Human Being.”

#2 – Help For Hands
foam sleeve on glass for arthritic hands Watching my father-in-law try to grip his glass of juice with his gnarly arthritic fingers, I thought to myself, “There’s got to be something out there that can help him.” While driving home from my visit with him, an idea popped into my head: why not slip one of those foam fruit protector sleeves over the glass? It will provide him with a softer and more malleable surface to grip onto and will help prevent the glass from slipping through his not-so-dexterous fingers. If you try this idea, make sure you use a glass with the proper diameter, so that the foam sleeve is snug and cannot slip off.

#3 – Bubble Therapy
In need of a little child-like oooing and aaahing to lift your spirits? Take a minute and enjoy the wonder of giant bubbles being blown on the beach and carried away by the wind.

#4 – Calcium Supplements Bad for Men?
graphic of pill bottle I wrote a post a while back about the push-pull of advice I was getting from my doctors. One doctor was adamant about my taking calcium supplements for my bones and another doctor advised me not to take calcium supplements because they irritate the heart. Obviously the heart trumps the bones, so I don’t take calcium supplements anymore, but I try to eat a diet that is high in calcium. Knowing that, I wasn’t surprised to read about the controversy over calcium supplements in USA TODAY’s article, “Calcium Supplements May Be Bad for a Man’s Heart.” The article also includes the recommended calcium amounts by age. Please consult with your doctor if you have questions regarding calcium supplements.

#5 – Cherish The Good Times
“Life rolls by in fits and starts, weeks, days, years and months, moments good and bad. You can’t help noticing bad times; they have ways of getting your attention. It’s the good times that are easy to miss, hard to recognize until they are gone. You have to slow down and watch closely for them. And when you see one coming your way, reach out and grab it. Clutch it to your heart. Stand in awe of your good fortune, and be thankful. And before you let it go, lift it up for your children, point it out like a shooting star and let it shine. Make sure they see it. Remind them, lest they forget, that they are loved and life is good.”
Sharon Randall

Enjoy your weekend and Happy Chinese New Year!

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inspirational Tolstoy quote

Photo by Linnell Chang

As today is the first day of February, thoughts of hearts naturally come to mind. The record player in my head reveals my age by playing this Eddie Fisher song You’ve Gotta Have Heart all day long. (Click on the link to hear the song)

#1 – Free Valentine Printable
Valentine flower printable

Looking for a cute, easy, and inexpensive Valentine’s Day project for my National Charity League group to make for residents of a senior citizen’s home, I found this free printable on Skip to My Lou. I downloaded the free printables (a page of flowers and a page of leaves), printed them on colorful cardstock paper, cut them out, and punched out hearts from the paper scraps. When my group meets, all we’ll have to do is glue hearts on the flower petals and assemble the valentines. So that the seniors know who this treat is from, I added “From your National Charity League friends” to the leaves before printing them up. 95 hearts are going to be very happy when they receive their flower and lollipop Valentine’s Day cards!

#2 – Every Heart Has a Story to Tell
Four minutes of inspiration. What kind of story does your heart tell?

#3 – Game of Hearts
Ace of hearts
Remember playing the card game Hearts when you were younger? Here’s a free online version complete with opponents. How many hands can you win? You’ll ♥ it!

#4 – Go Red
The month of February not only highlights chocolate hearts and paper hearts, it is also the month designated to recognize women’s heart health. Today is the 10th Anniversary of the National Wear Red Day, a movement created to raise awareness that heart disease is the No. 1 killer of women. What are your chances of getting heart disease? Check out this infograph from the American Heart Association: risk of heart disease infograph

#5 – Your Heart Knows
“The trouble comes when we try to fashion our success to the outside world’s specifications even though these are not the specifications drawn up in our own hearts.”
–Howard Whitman

Have a lovely weekend!

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Pipevine Swallowtail (Battus philenor) Butterfly

Pipevine Swallowtail Butterfly photo by Linnell Chang

Looking through a large kitchen window facing my backyard, I mindlessly wash dishes while my eyes take in the outdoor activities. Birds line up on a shepherd’s hook patiently awaiting their turn at a feeder. Butterflies busily flutter from blossom to blossom. Bees hover over the fountain and then stop to get a sip of water. I reach across the clutter on my kitchen counter for a basket containing gifts from my husband. He knows me too well – he knows I’m an information junkie. I pull out the binoculars he bought for me and zoom in on a feeder. Yes, just as I thought – there’s a new visitor to my yard. Carrying the basket of gifts outside, I thumb through the pages of the bird book he gave me and say in amazement, “How about that!” as I identify the little bird. Looking across the yard I see a black speck on a white chair. The speck is actually a butterfly – a Pipevine Swallowtail to be exact. And just how do I know that? My thoughtful hubby included a book on butterflies, too. He knew I would say, “I wonder what kind of butterfly that is?” So, tonight when my husband comes home from work and finds a pile of dishes in the sink, I’ll just have to say, “It’s all your fault!”

#1 – You Need to Know
Knowing that I post a lot of lists on ways to improve life, I hesitate to post yet another one. But when I remind myself that the premise of this blog is “sharing and encouraging joy in life,” I feel good about sharing another thought-provoking list. From Marc and Angel Hack Life is this list of 11 Things Everyone Needs You to Know. Below are the 11 “things” to tease your thoughts, but do give yourself a gift and read the entire article – it’s not very long at all:

1. You never really know how much the people around you are hurting.
2. The most important trip you will likely take in life is meeting others half way.
3. Relationships don’t create happiness, they reflect it.
4. Compassion comes back around.
5. Timing is everything.
6. Actions are the loudest form of communication.
7. A healthy relationship keeps doors and windows open.
8. People are more what they keep silent than what they say.
9. What others say and do is often based entirely on their own self-reflection.
10. Sincerity is giving without expectation.
11. Not every relationship is meant to last forever.

#2 – Short Stuff
Massage step Being short and only getting shorter, I have difficulty stirring tall stockpots for an extended amount of time. My arm gets so tired from being raised above shoulder height. Step stools never work, because they don’t allow me to work on adjacent burners without having to step up and down. Here’s a good idea and another thoughtful gift from my hubby. He bought me a massage step. Massage therapists use these when they work on larger clients. For me, a massage step provides a strong stable platform to stand on and to move about on when I’m cooking. No more dead-arm stirring and shoulder aches for me. If you’re short and need a lift, here’s the link to where my hubby purchased my massage step.

#3 – Uplifting
In certain areas around the small town of Águeda, Portugal, umbrellas decorate the skies. This colorful art installation is not only beautiful to look at, it also provides shade from the warm summer sun. Click here to see more photos.

#4 – The Power of Words
In its brief 1:47 minutes, this video depicts the power of words and how words can be a gift to others. “Change your words. Change the world.”

#5 – The Most Useful Gift
I think, at a child’s birth, if a mother could ask a fairy godmother to endow it with the most useful gift, that gift should be curiosity.
Eleanor Roosevelt

Have a fabulous weekend!

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